The rising phoenix of competition: what future for Australia’s public universities?

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  • Published 20070202
  • ISBN: 9780733316210
  • Extent: 268 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

IN MID-WINTER, NEW Brunswick is a long, cold train ride from Penn Station in Manhattan. The New Jersey transit runs out of the city and through suburbs until the scenery seems an endless process of small depressed towns strung together along the line. Few students alight from the clean but empty train in January, leaving the streets of New Brunswick bleak and deserted. Yet for much of the year this is a lively place, one of three college towns hosting campuses of the State University of New Jersey. The coffee shops and pizza joints lining the freezing walk from the New Brunswick train station to the front gates of Queen’s College are closed for the New Year break. They serve a campus chartered in 1766 but soon patriotically renamed after a hero of the American Revolution, Colonel Henry Rutgers.

The university now bearing his name spans New Jersey and reaches its 8.5 million residents. Rutgers is the result of successive amalgamations, a combination of former independent colleges dotted around New Jersey and a land-grant university from the nineteenth century. Most United States universities are single-campus and so do not face the academic and administrative coordination challenges common in Australia. Rutgers is unusual, operating from three regional centres. Like the typical Australian public university, Rutgers must find ways to speak with staff and students scattered across many sites. It does so through new teaching technologies, broadband connections that allow a law professor in Camden to address a class in Newark, a study group in New Brunswick to include students from across the Rutgers network.

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